Unavoidable Haireseis in the Church: 1 Corinthians 11:19 in patristic reception between 350 and 450 AD

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In 1 Cor 11:19 Paul says that there have to be dissensions (αἱρέσεις) among the Corinthian Christians so that the genuine may stand out. This paper explores how this text was read between 350 and 450 AD, in relation to the belief in the unity of the Church. In this period Paul’s statement is quoted rarely in the extant works of the Greek-speaking Church Fathers, but John Chrysostom’s lengthy homilies on it have been preserved. He interprets the αἱρέσεις as the social divisions between the rich and the poor in the Corinthian assembly, without rejecting the popular view that the apostle referred to doctrinal heresies. The Latin Church of the same period has preserved far more quotations of this text. There haereses are generally interpreted as heresies whose adherents are contrasted with the genuine Catholic believers. Augustine holds that heretics forced the Catholic Church to formulate its doctrines more precisely. None of the patristic authors considers the possibility of an ironical understanding of Paul’s words about αἱρέσεις, as some modern commentators have proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTroubling texts in the New Testament
Subtitle of host publicationessays in honour of Rob van Houwelingen
EditorsMyriam Klinker-De Klerck, Arco den Heijer, Jermo van Nes
Place of PublicationLeuven
PublisherPeeters Publishers
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9789042948488
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameContributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology


  • patristic interpretation of Scripture
  • sects
  • heresies
  • 1Cor 11:19

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